Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.)

Hay/pasture: Sainfoin is an introduced non-bloat causing legume which can be used as hay, or grazed in pastures alone or in a grass-legume mix. It is also commonly included in a mixed blend of sainfoin, brome and birdsfoot trefoil and/or cocksfoot. Sainfoin is highly palatable to sheep and cattle. It is drought-resistant, needs no nitrogen fertiliser, and does not cause bloat. Sainfoin has deep, penetrating roots and can draw moisture from a great depth. Being leguminous (able to fix N) it can leave huge quantities of N in the soil, making it ideal for the next crop in the rotation.

Seed should be applied at 65-90 kg/ha depending on whether it is sown with or without companion grasses. Sainfoin should be drilled to 2cm and rolled afterwards to increase soil moisture contact with the seed. Sainfoin may be included in seed mixtures in the same way as clovers are grown with grasses. A typical inclusion rate would be 12 kg/ha.

Sainfoin provides bloat-free forage for ruminants and this is a real advantage over other legumes such as clovers and lucerne which can cause fatal bloat. Only a relatively small quantity of sainfoin in the diet is required to prevent bloat. Sainfoin is palatable to horses, sheep, cattle, goats and all commonly farmed animals.